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BRAIN CHEMICAL WORKS LIKE MARIJUANA

Wisconsin State Journal
August 28, 1997

Neuroscientists have found a natural molecule in the brain that functions similarly to the active ingredient in marijuana.

The substance, 2-arachidonylglycerol, mimics one of marijuana's more notable effects by blocking the formation of short term memory. It is the second brain chemical to be discovered that behaves like marijuana biochemically.

"The brain apparently can make more than one cannabis-like substance," said Daniele Piomelli, a neuroscientist at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.

In discovering the new compound, scientists are one step closer to understanding how marijuana works. Ultimately, the research could lead to drugs that have the positive effects of marijuana, such as pain relief and appetite stimulation, but not the negative effects.

The recent passage of ballot initiatives in Arizona and California legalizing the medical use of marijuana has increased interest in the drug's potential as a treatment for cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and other diseases.

"Clearly there's some reason to believe that there might be some therapeutic uses of marijuana," said Cecilia Hillard, a pharmacologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.